By Phillip Lopate
Notes on Sontag is a frank, witty, and unique mirrored image at the paintings, impact, and character of 1 of the "foremost interpreters of . . . our contemporary modern moment." Adopting Sontag's favourite shape, a suite of short essays or notes that circle round a subject from varied views, well known essayist Phillip Lopate considers the achievements and barriers of his tantalizing, daunting topic via what's essentially a talk among writers. Reactions to Sontag are typically polarized, yet Lopate's account of Sontag's value to him and to the tradition over which she loomed is neither hagiography nor hatchet activity. regardless of admiring and being encouraged by means of her essays, he admits a chronic ambivalence approximately Sontag. Lopate additionally describes the determine she minimize in individual via a sequence of wry own anecdotes of his encounters together with her through the years. starting up from middle-class California to invent herself as a European-style highbrow, Sontag raised the bar of severe discourse and provided up a version of a freethinking, creative, and sensual lady. yet whereas crediting her successes, Lopate additionally seems to be at how her flavor for aphorism and the unconventional excessive flooring led her into exaggerations that can do violence to her personal logic, and the way her ambition to be visible basically as a novelist made her undervalue her very good essays. sincere but sympathetic, Lopate's enticing evaluate finds a Sontag who used to be either an unique and intensely a lot somebody of her time.
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The Jews’ manner of experiencing their suffering was direct, emotional, persuasive. It ran the gamut from stark declamation to ironic self-mockery. It attempted to engage the sympathy of others. At the same time, it projected a despair over the difficulties of engaging others. The source of the Jewish stubbornness, of their miraculous talent for survival, is their surrender to a complex kind of pessimism. Perhaps something like the Jewish (and also “Western”) style of overt expressive suffering was what I unconsciously expected to find when I came to Vietnam.
So this was the literary life to which I aspired! In fact, Moravia was prophetic that night: his literary stock declined from about that point 46 & onward, and for at least a decade after his death he was almost forgotten. Then a slow revisionist correction (brought about partly through the insistent efforts of the respected translator William Weaver) began to take place, and now his works are once again being reissued, and he is again regarded as an important modern Italian writer. Politics and Personae * When Susan Sontag burst on the scene in the early 1960s, she encountered a peculiarly stalemated political context amongst New York intellectuals (the vast majority of whom were allied with the Left).
It was a moment uniting us in reverence for the most refined artistry as well as the most common familial emotion, her tears betraying the closet humanist in her, and I nodded to Sontag—but she quickly made it clear that she did not want conversation as she left the hall. * Shortly after I graduated from Columbia, when I had just turned twenty-one, I learned that Alberto Moravia would be speaking at the 92nd Street Y. I was a big fan of Moravia, whose Early Memories of Sontag & 43 deft, disenchanted shadings of psychological realism in novels, novellas, and short stories delighted me.